From Beyoncé singing Martin Luther King’s favorite gospel song to Kanye, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney teaming up for what is sure to be a performance dripping in denim, this Sunday’s Grammys have a number of reasons to watch that have little to do with the awards themselves. But most importantly, between collaborations that no one asked for (Annie Lennox and Hozier, Tom Jones and Jessie J), the Recording Academy will give out statues, many of them to the same group of superstars they do every year. On the following pages, we weigh artistic merit versus the past voting habits of Grammy voters in the big four categories (Album/Song/Record of the Year, Best New Artist), plus album categories for a number of genres.
A quick word before we get to the picks and predictions: There’s no shortage of passionate music fans who have zero interest in the Grammys. With the voters’ simultaneously baffling and conservative picks, I understand that. But keep in mind that institutional recognition is a big part of how history is made and legacies are cemented. Caring about who wins Grammys does not require approving of the Academy’s track record. It requires seeing the value of a mainstream platform that actually does encourage listenership, preferably for the music that deserves it. That’s not always or even often the case with the Grammys, but we can hope. With that, I leave you with my thoughts on this year’s awards, which are sure to be dominated by Sam Smith, Beyoncé, and a handful of others if we’re lucky.
The Grammys air live this Sunday (February 8) at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Beck – Morning Phase, Beyoncé – Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran – x, Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour, Pharrell Williams – G I R L
Should win: Beyoncé offers up the most innovative music of the bunch, highlights both universal messages and personal insights, continues to influence the industry with its release, and has big hits. So.
Will win: Bey has a Grammy-approved trifecta down: she captured the zeitgeist, sold a ton of albums, and made a great album that takes some risks but not too many. She’s been nominated for AOTY before, for Sasha Fierce, and isn’t nominated in any other non-genre categories. Sometimes the Grammys will use AOTY, arguably the most important award of the night, to recognize an artist’s career and body of work. Beyoncé is a moment for that, though curiously, the person few would expect — Beck — may be in this position as well. He’s been nominated for AOTY twice before, for Odelay and Midnite Vultures. Perhaps now, with the release of his safest album to date, the Grammys will recognize their favorite modern weirdo. But probably not — ‘Yonce all on NARAS’s mouth like-like liquor.